Imperial College London has confirmed the efficacy against Covid-19 of two drugs already on the market for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
The fight against Covid-19 is not (only) about a vaccine. Alongside the development of a serum to prevent infection, pharmaceutical companies are also working on effective treatments for the symptoms of the coronavirus. In particular, two drugs that are already commonly used have shown some effectiveness: Tocilizumab and Sarilumab. These two drugs are used worldwide for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis but also have positive effects on the virus. Both drugs are called ‘IL-6 receptor antagonists’ because they dampen the effect of proteins that can cause the immune system to overreact. Tocilizumab – the active ingredient in is called Actemra – is produced by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche and was first used in China to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients. Some very important trials have also been conducted in Italy (we have already talked about them here). At the Cotugno Hospital in Naples, in particular, Tocilizumab was administered to patients with severe pneumonia caused by Covid-19. Already 24 hours after the first infusion, encouraging improvements were shown.
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Two drugs already on the market are effective against Covid-19: confirmation from the UK
A large-scale trial has been conducted in the UK by a research group at Imperial College London. The ‘REMAP-CAP’ study involved more than 3,900 Covid-19 positive subjects. Of these, 350 patients received Actemra (Tocilizumab) while 45 were given a similar drug, Kevzara. The researchers monitored the patients’ health status for at least 21 days and obtained surprising results, especially regarding Covid-19 mortality. The study showed that only ‘only’ 27.3% of critically ill subjects treated with Actemra died in hospital – with standard care, the mortality rate is 35.8%. An 8.5 percentage point drop in the absolute risk of death is a very significant result. But there’s more. The researchers also found that patients treated with Actemra and Kevzara recovered more quickly. In fact, they were discharged from hospital an average of one week earlier than those treated with standard care. These findings could have “immediate implications for critically ill patients on Covid-19,” Anthony Gordon, head of the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at Imperial College London, said in an official statement. Martin Landray (Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University) was pleased to add that these studies “have injected the bit of optimism we all need to keep trying even with arthritis drugs”.
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